Local Band Alert: An Interview with 9 Below Zero

Local Band Alert: ThisisReno takes a closer look at local bands in this series of 5-minute interviews. This week we interview 9 Below Zero.

They may have only been together for several years, but 9 Below Zero has grown from roots in the local Reno music scene established in the early 70s. All four members have performed together in various band arrangements, with 9 Below Zero the latest and the best.

The band is a blues/country, classic rock, and swing band that plays the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Coco Montoya, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Cream, The Beatles, The Doobie Brothers, CCR, Derek Trucks, The Stray Cats, Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, and Van Morrison.

The quartet has been selected to play various events including the Mash Bash, Mardis Gras, Blues and Balloons, and the Reno Blues Challenge. This year they opened for Shane Dwight and Tommy Castro and the Painkillers at the Eldorado Resort Casino. They’re also members of the Reno Blues Society and are regularly scheduled in the Reno/Sparks area.

Band members include: Craig Smith (vocals, acoustic guitar), Gary Fritz (guitars, vocals), Jack Randell (guitars, vocals), Gary Fields (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals), and Michelle Zito (drums, percussion, guitar, vocals).

ThisisReno: How would you describe your sound and style?

9 Below Zero: Our sound and style are influenced by our individual experiences, of course, but we also like to put our spin on classic tunes from the blues, rock, country and Southern rock genres. Our style is smooth, tasteful, and in the pocket. We are proud to say that our music appeals to a wide audience with listeners of all ages. We have all played here locally for decades, everything from jazz, metal and classic rock to blues, funk and R&B.

TIR: How do you feel about the band’s progress and where are you taking it?

9BZ:  Our band is currently going through some major changes to introduce a lot of original material and some different instrumentation (steel and dobro guitars, three and four-part vocal harmonies) and a new guitarist and front-man, Craig Smith. Our aim is to craft our material to create a wonderful multi-level listening and dancing experience. We are rehearsing harder than ever and feel it is time to expand on our success! The bookings keep coming, and so we are appreciative of the love we’ve received from our audience.

TIR: Where do you see the band in five years?

9BZ: We are more than just a band, we are also old friends and this band is an extension of that friendship. There is an ease and comfort in this band that I believe shows in our performance. Five years from now, aside from a few recordings under our belt, we will be happily reminiscing with our favorite material and creating more! We all love to play and favor the journey rather than a specific “goal.” However, it would be nice to open for more big shows! We’ve had a great year so far with Street Vibes, Road Shows events, and Eldorado Brews and Blues Fest.

TIR: Who came up with your band name “9 Below Zero” and what is its meaning, if there is one?

9BZ:  Our name “9 Below Zero” is the title of a tune written and performed by Sonny Boy Williamson, a classic blues tune that has been covered by many well-known artists like Muddy Waters and Canned Heat. The style is a good example of some of the influences for the band, hence the name.

TIR: If you could open for a national touring band or artist, who would it be?

9BZ:  I think we might all have slightly different ideas for that! Perhaps Robben Ford or John Scofield…Eric Clapton (I know the guys would love THAT!)

Be sure to catch 9 Below Zero the next time they hit the stage, you won’t be disappointed. The local club scene loves 9 Below Zero and books them regularly. Find their schedule on Facebook or on Reverbnation. The band’s website, 9belowzero.com, is currently under construction and will go live soon.

For booking info, Contact: Michelle Zito, 775-815-7888 email: drumzinthepocket@yahoo.com

And as always, support your local bands and venues, Go To A Show!

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John Tuckness
About John Tuckness 68 Articles
John Tuckness has been photographing rock concerts in the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe area and as far as Northern California since 2004. He tries to attend as many shows as he can. John knew he wanted to be a concert photographer when he went to his first concert, Kiss and Montrose way back in 1976. He saw three guys shooting the show and thought to himself, "that's what I want to do." After many years of undercover work (sneaking his camera into venues), he finally got noticed and started getting photo passes through PR people and the bands. John has had many of his photos published in newspapers, websites and band autobiographies.

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